“What is public health?”
Members of the audience at the 2017 Public Health Commencement Ceremony have supported their children, grandchildren, wives, friends, and family members for years as they worked toward this graduation, but many still weren’t sure. What is public health?
Dean Fox Wetle, in her final Commencement address as Dean, talked about public health and what it is like to have a rewarding career in this field. “Simply stated, the goal of public health is to protect and improve the health and well-being of populations through the art and science of preventing disease and promoting population health," she said. "Population health is described as the health outcomes of a group of individuals throughout the lifespan. Thus, population health encompasses the very beginning of life — prenatal, maternal, and child health—to the infectious and chronic diseases of middle age — to the care of our oldest populations.”
Whether it’s smoking cessation, healthy sexual behaviors, seat belt use, or access to clean drinking water, “the increases in life expectancy over the last 100 years are largely due to public health efforts,” she said.
The 2017 Public Health graduates know all about these efforts, and then some. They know how to identify, measure, and compare health outcomes, and how to analyze huge amounts of health data. And they know how to apply this knowledge to the promotion of population health and the prevention of disease. From traumatic brain injury to hepatitis C, from diabetes to HIV, these remarkable graduates, across eleven academic programs, have made their own contributions to increased life expectancy, while acquiring the skills to become public health leaders.
The Dean also introduced a representative of Brown University’s Corporation, trustee emeritus Susan Adler Kaplan, a distinguished educator and former chair of the Corporation Emeriti Executive Committee. After the awarding of the undergraduate degrees in Public Health and Statistics, the Undergraduate Student Excellence Awards were presented along with the Public Health Graduate Impact Awards. The Undergraduate award recipients were Sarah Eltinge, Sylvie Bertrand, Gerardo Arteaga, Kate Magid, and Stanley Muñoz. The Master’s Public Health Impact Awards were presented to Andriy Chybisov (MPH), Catherine Nwachukwu (MPH), and Holly Boyle (ScM, BSHS) and the Doctoral Public Health Impact Award was presented to Xiaochen Lin (Epidemiology).
The graduate students, who received their diplomas during earlier ceremonies, were acknowledged and presented with gifts from their respective graduate program directors. Degrees were awarded this year to Master’s students in Behavioral and Social Health Sciences, Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Clinical and Translational Research, and the Master’s in Public Health. Doctoral degrees were awarded in Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Health Services Research.
Dean Wetle described it as a “glorious day to acknowledge the many achievements of these amazing and talented graduates—and to help launch them on their paths to become leaders in improving population health.” She thanked the faculty “who have educated, mentored, and sometimes nudged and nagged these graduates to completion of their degrees.” The faculty rose to acknowledge unrestrained applause. Dean Wetle closed with well wishes and by thanking everyone in attendance. “Congratulations again to all the outstanding graduates in the class of 2017!”
Laura Kallio Joyce